The Brewer High School hockey team has a new coach in Dave Shedd and had to replace virtually its entire defense corps along with leading scorers Dylan Fitzpatrick (27 goals, 24 assists) and Ryan Nadeau (22 & 19).
But the Witches, who dropped to Class B from Class A, haven’t missed a beat.
Monday’s 10-5 win over defending Eastern Maine Class B champ Presque Isle, their second victory over the Wildcats this season, improved the Witches’ record to 7-1-1.
They are sitting atop the Eastern Maine Class B Heal point standings.
They were 32-9-1 in their previous two seasons in Class A and reached the semifinals each year. They won the state Class B title three years ago.
“They’re a very good team,” said Presque Isle coach Carl Flynn.
Senior goalie Eric White said he isn’t surprised by how well the Witches are doing.
“We had two lines coming back and [Alec] Pacheco is a real good player who had played with Nick [Risser] when we were younger,” said White. “And our defensemen are really improving. Over the last couple of weeks in practice, we’ve been doing more defensive stuff in practice to help them grow into their positions.”
“I’ve been a little surprised but, at the same time, this team has hard workers who put in a lot of time,” said senior Chris Lopez, the only returning experienced defenseman. “Coach [Shedd] has given me a lot of one-on-one time with the other defensemen because I’ve been here four years and had the opportunity to play with a lot of great players. That made me better.”
“I couldn’t be happier with the season. We’re all clicking, we’ve fast and we’re passing well,” said senior center Risser, who also gave Shedd and his staff a ringing endorsement.
“[Shedd] and everything has been great. You couldn’t ask for more,” added Risser.
“We have fun every day we come to the rink,” said White. “We go out and do what we have to do.”
Sophomore left wing Jacob Chapman admitted that he didn’t think the team would be as good as it has been this early in the season.
“But we’ve worked hard, we have good balance and our defensemen have shown a lot of improvement,” said Chapman.
“We’ve been excellent offensively and that’s helped our defense,” said sophomore right wing Tyler White. “We have a solid defense for the most part.”
The Witches have exhibited scoring depth.
They have five forwards with at least 14 points so far led by Risser’s 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists). He is flanked by transfer Pacheco (8 & 7) and Jamie Williamson (2 & 0).
The second line features junior Evan Nadeau (5 & 9) between White (9 & 8) and Chapman (8 & 9).
Third line right wing Lucas Lamond, a junior, has 2 & 5.
Workhorse Lopez (6 & 4) has been stellar on the blue line and a great weapon on the power play.
Garrett Gonzales (1 & 1), a senior, has been having a solid year on the blue line while junior Jake Valley, sophomore Brody Valley and freshman Michael Shedd (0 & 1) are improving.
Having Eric White between the pipes is certainly comforting for the Witches and allows them to forecheck aggressively with numbers.
White was 27-9 the previous two seasons and has picked up where he left off. He has two shutouts this season and a goals-against average around 2.00.
“We’re so lucky to have Eric,” said Lopez. “He’s a terrific goaltender. He keeps us in games.”
“He’s one of the best goalies in the league,” said Presque Isle senior center and sniper Brennen Shaw.
Brewer hosts 7-1 Lawrence of Fairfield tonight at 5.